• Published 26th Jun 2017
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Born In Light, Forged In Darkness - Jest

Twilight Sparkle's entrance exam has not gone well, she cannot hatch the dragon egg and in her desperation has begun to panic. Little does she know failure is going to be the least of her worries.

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Trial One: The Library

Dog had not known what a restful sleep was her entire life, but with that being said she still felt like her last sleep was shaping up to be a good one. For one, she had hardly noticed the cold stone that served as her bed, her father’s magic coursing through her veins and keeping her asleep in order to push her body’s ability to heal well beyond the limits that it should normally have.

That was until the screaming started, then it became the worst wake up she had experienced. At first it sounded like only a single being but as Dog blinked and became more aware she noticed the screams were from a plethora of individuals and varied wildly. Between the harsh barking howl of some other worldly creature, to the high pitched wail of what she assumed was a female of some kind though the unnatural reverberation that came with the scream told Dog that it was not from a demon like her. Several other screams intermingled with the rest but they were hard to pick out and Dog chose not to spend anymore time paying attention to them.

She groaned and rolled over, putting her hooves over her completely bandaged ears, only to recoil preemptively in pain. Only that harsh sting never came… She covered her ears with her hooves again only to receive a slight jolt of pain from her still sensitive appendages after she applied pressure but that was it.

Though her pain had dulled somewhat over the last day, what joy she might have felt from that realization was marred by the screaming that had woken her.

She rolled over and lamented she had nothing to stuff into her ears save her hooves, so that was just what she did. For a moment it worked and sleep came rushing back only to be dismissed the instant her hooves fell from her ears and the cacophony of agony returned.

Dog sighed and rolled onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. What had she done to deserve this? The crawling beneath her skin had returned as she slowly awoke, her senses and faculties returning to her along with her lifelong companions, pain and confusion.

She sighed and slowly got up, putting her hooves under her and walking around the small square cell that served as her room. The slightly raised stone section that served as her bed sat where it did before, unadorned and barren as always. The singular torch that burned low didn't hurt Dog’s eyes and meant her father did not need her. Its light was just enough to illuminate the room and pique Dog’s curiosity.

She had only passed by the chest near the door earlier but never had a moment to inspect it, now that she had the time her curiosity got the better of her. She walked over and reached out a black bandaged hoof out to touch it. The wood was a strange reddish black that was so reflective it reminded Dog of metal. What little reinforcement came in the way of several silver slips of metal around the edges, laced over the box at regular intervals. The lock on the front wasn't so much a lock as it was a simple flat, unadorned piece of metal the likes of which covered the other parts of the box. The only reason Dog knew it was a lock was the fact that it was where a lock would be and because there was no other way of opening the chest.

Dog gently touched the wood only to recoil in shock as an otherworldly scream the likes of which she hadn't heard yet pierced her curiosity-filled focus.

The scream sounded like someone yelling through three mouths at the same time in three different languages but the same singular voice. Dog quickly clamped her hooves over her ears and whimpered. After a few long, agonizing seconds the scream eventually tapered off and blended back into the background screaming.

Dog panted, her pupils the size of pinpricks, panic coursing through her veins. The fear that the last scream put into her was on a level far beyond anything she had ever experienced. She felt as though her very soul was in danger and she had to run but with no way out of the room there was nothing she could do.

Slowly her breathing returned to normal and Dog tentatively lifted her hooves from her ears. Hearing only the now usual set of screams she breathed easier and returned her attention to the chest in front of her.

She placed a hoof on the spot where the locking mechanism should be, only to receive a mild shock. Not much but enough to sting a little and make Dog hold her hoof to her chest, gripping the limb and trying to will the pain away. Slowly the pain receded and Dog lost interest in the chest. It didn't seem to want to give up any of its secrets quite so easily and she didn't feel like receiving another shock again anytime soon.

Sighing, Dog trotted back over to her bed and sat down, putting her hooves over her ears in order to block out the majority of the screaming. As she sat there, she realized some of the screams seemed to pierce even what little protection her hooves provided, seemingly echoing inside her head.

Dog groaned and flopped down onto her side, miserable beyond belief.

She frowned and wondered why her father had done this. Had she upset him somehow? Did she say something wrong? It was the hugging thing, wasn't it?

For several long minutes she lay on the cold stone until the torch above her head flickered and grew brighter. As it the light grew her spirits lifted. Father wants me!

Dog shot out of bed, eagerly running over to the door and knocking twice, completely ignoring the slight tinge of pain that accompanied the action. She hopped from hoof to hoof, the seconds crawling by painfully slowly.

“Come on, come on, hurry up!” Dog muttered angrily.

As if listening to her request, the door opened slightly, allowing Dog to push through the crack and take off down the hall, pointedly ignoring the fact that the screams had become even louder. By the end of the hall tears filled the filly’s eyes and despite a part of her wanted that wanted to help the screaming individuals the agony of the horrendous noise was too much so she simply put her head down and plowed onwards to the end of the hall.

Once there she banged on the door twice while jittering impatiently. The omnipresent cacophony of agony surrounded and encapsulated Dog, making her vision swim and empathetic pain course through her. Tears wetted the bandages beneath her eyes and Dog silently begged the door to open faster.

Only when Dog was tempted to turn back to her room in an attempt to escape the horrid sound did the door open, allowing the filly to squeeze through the cracks in the double door and into the room beyond.

Once inside the doors slammed shut behind her, sealing her off from the sounds of pain. Her limbs splayed out in all directions and she fell to the ground sobbing, unable to control the flood of emotions. Now inside the silent room and away from the tortured cries she suddenly felt guilt well up inside herself.

She didn't know what kind of demons those were, their names or what they had done but her heart wept for them anyway. Imagines of demons just like her swam through her mind. Was her father punishing them? Why? What had they done to deserve to be what sounded like the most pain Dog could even imagine? An even worse thought slowly worked itself into her mind. She didn't want to think about it, but was forced to wonder if her fate would be similar if her father wasn't satisfied with her.

She spent several long minutes in relative silence, crying in misplaced guilt, her tears quickly absorbed by the bandages around her eyes. Eventually her tears stopped and she forced herself to stand, she would ask her father about the other demons and what they had done. Surely there would be a good reason… right?

Dog’s thoughts were interrupted as the door across from her opened to reveal a now familiar stone golem, who, after being noticed, quickly turned and began walking away, assuming its charge was following close behind it.

Dog’s frantic hooves quickly caught up to the golem just in time to see it turn sharply down an unfamiliar hallway. Dog opened her mouth to ask it where it was taking her but quickly realized the futility of such an act. The thing had no mouth to speak an answer nor even a brain to come up with one.

Instead she followed in silence, quickly getting used to the large construct’s loping, powerful gait. Within minutes they had crossed a good distance and Dog’s legs began to burn, though not nearly as bad as the day before. The entire time the harsh clack of her bandage-covered hooves and the heavy steps of the golem were the only sound besides Dog’s labored breaths until all sound save her breathing suddenly vanished.

Looking down Dog breathed a sigh of relief. It was rare to see rug anywhere in her father’s spire but having found one of the rare sections that had been carpeted was a blessing for her hooves. This pleasant turn of events so captivated Dog that she ran right into the now unmoving form of her guard, bouncing off his stone leg and falling back on her rump with a sudden squeal of alarm.

Dog rubbed the part of her forehead that had just become intimately familiar with the back end of the golem and grumbled quietly to herself. She needed to be more aware of her surroundings and made a mental note of doing just that.

The slow creak of wood brought Dog’s attention up to where the golem was pushing open a door, revealing a sight that brought a tear to Dog’s eye and a smile to her lips.

Books! Hundreds and hundreds of books lined the walls of the room just beyond the golem. Before she could even think her hooves were already under her, carrying Dog into the room where she spun in a slow circle, looking up and down the circular room she was now in.

The shelves on the walls stretched up at least twelve or so feet before coming to a stop at the beginning to the next floor. The second level was a lot like the first, round and stretching the entirety of the library, only this time the shelves stretched up twenty or so feet into the air before meeting the ceiling, necessitating the use of several sets of rolling ladders positioned intermittently around the room. A small staircase sat opposite the entry to the library, allowing access to the second floor.

Several tables littered with scrolls, maps and various strange artifacts were the only other thing on the main floor. They included pieces of armor, bottles filled with strange liquid, maps of places Dog had never heard of and a litany of other curiosities that all tried to grab her attention. However none of those things could ever compete with the strange sight of a single empty bookcase set just to the right of the entrance to the library.

Dog cocked her head and slowly walked up to the barren bookcase. As she got closer she realized it wasn't completely empty, where the piece of furniture would normally hold several hundred books there sat only six, but before she could inspect the curious tomes a sharp crack of electricity made Dog jump and spin around in fright. Her tiny forehooves raised as if to strike whatever had appeared behind her.

“Oh it's you master.” Dog let out the lungful of air she had been holding and wiped her brow despite the fact that her bandages had already absorbed whatever sweat may have been there. Dog bowed quickly, remembering protocol after the panic left her system.

Tirek looked down on the demon with a troubled expression. “How was your sleep?” he asked, in a strangely unsure tone that lacked any of the normal confidence he seemed to have in spades.

Dog frowned. “Pretty good until all the screaming woke me up.” She bit her lip and pawed nervously at the ground for a moment before working up the courage to speak and stand back up. “Why are they screaming master? What did they do to deserve that?”

The unsure tone and strangely kind face slipped from Tirek’s face, replaced by one of satisfaction and confidence. “That my pet, is a good question, one you shouldn't worry about. All you need to know is they deserve all the suffering they are experiencing and you should shed no tears for those fools who would cross me.”

Dog seemed unsure of her master’s assertion but refused to voice such doubts aloud.

The centaur merely ignored the uncertainty on his dog’s face and made a mental note of her apparent overactive sense of empathy. Clearing his throat brought Dog’s attention back to him. “We will now begin your first lecture, you may take a seat.”

Dog’s face lit up and she scampered over to the closest seat and quickly fell into it.

“The first thing you must learn to do is how to win. I know it sounds vague but keep these steps in mind and no matter the task I give you, you shall overcome it. Understood?” Tirek looked down and frowned at the black bandaged hoof waving in the air. “Yes, Dog?”

“Can I have something to take notes on master?”

Tirek’s frown deepened. “No.” Dog frowned and looked down at the table in despair. “I will get you something next time, until then you must simply remember it.” Dog’s face lit up and Tirek couldn't help but frown slightly less.

“Now then, let's begin. First you must know your enemy, which means finding out as much as possible about them. This works for other tasks as well and not just battle.” Tirek stopped pacing when he noticed a bandaged hoof back in the air. “Yes?”

“Like building a boat?”

Tirek scratched his head and stopped, having to think about that for a moment. “I suppose. In order to build a boat you need to learn all about sailing, carpentry and the materials you might need to build the boat. Much akin to defeating an enemy you must first learn everything about them, their weaknesses, their strengths, and how to use one and negate the other. Planning is essential but all plans no matter how good need to be flexible so that you may have room to improvise.”

Tirek stopped and sighed, noticing a now familiar hoof being waved in the air with enthusiasm only a filly could summon. “Yes, Dog. What is it now?”

“But if all plans need to be improvised then what is the point of planning?”

Tirek sighed, it wasn't a bad question and though he could understand why she may ask it, the fact that he was being interrupted for the second time had begun to wear on his nerves. The centaur took a step forward and smacked the filly upside the head, sending her toppling out of her chair and unto the ground.

Dog sniffled and looked up at Tirek with big puffy eyes. “What did I do?”

Tirek looked away from the sniffling filly and rolled his eyes. “You are smarter than that, think about it. Why might a plan be perfect but still need to change?”

Dog sniffled and sat back into her chair, willing her tears away as she contemplated her master’s question. “An outside factor?” The filly’s confidence raised slightly and she looked up to the centaur. “Right?”

“Good, go on.”

“Something unforeseen might change things and need to be adapted to but the plan should still work?”

“Exactly. Having a plan of attack to any situation is important but if you stick to it too rigidly then unforeseen events may disrupt things. Next time think about it before you ask.”

Dog bowed her head low. “Yes master.”

“After that it is execution, following through on your plan and lastly study. Think on what happened and analyze where you succeeded and failed and how to improve. Keep this simple method of thinking and the trials will not be as difficult as you first thought.” Tirek looked down and happily noted there was no leg raised in question. “Now, any other questions?”

Dog rubbed her hooves together nervously. “H-how long do I have to keep the bandages on? They feel funny.”

“Until you kill your first fully fledged demon. Only then will that nagging feeling go away and the bandages can come off.”

The filly frowned, the idea of killing anything making her feel guilty before having even done anything.

“Now then, onto the rules of the library.” Tirek spread his arms wide. “All the books you see here you are not allowed to read.” The huge grin that had been threatening to spread across Dog’s face suddenly vanished. “...except, those six over there.” Tirek pointed to the nearly empty bookcase next to the door where the lonely few Dog had seen earlier still sat.

“Awww.” The filly kicked the stone floor in disappointment and winced from the shot of pain that lanced up her hoof. “Ouch, stupid floor.” Dog grumbled as Tirek looked on in amusement.

His desire to chastise the filly was overruled by the punishment the filly had inadvertently dished out on herself. A small grin of amusement spread across his face, which he quickly wiped away as he walked towards the books, the tiny bandaged filly following closely in his wake.

The centaur pointed to the leftmost book which had a blood red cover, the words The Planes by Steel Testament were emblazoned in gold along the spine. Dog’s eyes lit up at the strange and fascinating-looking book.

“That is a basic book on the planes of existence, you will start with that one and memorize it. You will leave the second chapter for last, there will be a test.” Though the addition of the word test made Dog tense for a moment her enthusiasm refused to be quenched.

“Next is a book on basic magic.” The filly turned her attention away from the red and gold book to an equally large book that was blue and purple with pink swirls throughout. It was simply titled the The basics of magic by Starswirl. Dog couldn't tell why but after she read the spine she couldn't tear her eyes from the enchanting book.

Tirek reached forward and pulled the book from the shelf, turning it to show Dog another strange looking lock that seemed identical to the one on the chest in her room. Dog frowned. “How do you open it?” she asked.

The centaur smiled. “Magic. Once you figure out how to open it you will be able to read it and use the things inside the chest in your room.” Tirek pulled the book away from Dog’s face just in time for her tiny hooves to grasp at the space it had occupied a second earlier. “But that will not be for a long time.” Then, just to add insult to injury he put the book on the highest shelf, far from the grasp of the diminutive filly.

Dog pouted and crossed her hooves in annoyance, drawing a snicker from the aged centaur. The filly’s pout grew when she heard her father laugh at her. “Why can't I read it now fa-master?”

Tirek merely leaned down and poked the filly in the nose. “You are not ready. But you will be one day, and when that day comes you will be able to read almost everything I own.”

The filly’s eyes lit up and she jumped back to her hooves. “Really?”

The centaur merely nodded and turned his attention back to the remaining books, ignoring the girlish squeal of joy his protege made. “The next three are general knowledge textbooks penned by myself.” Tirek swept his hand across three large black-clad tomes.

“Is that why there is no title or author?” the filly asked, only to raise her hoof after she had already asked her question, blushing nervously for her momentary forgetting of protocol.

Tirek either didn't notice or didn't care. “Yes, you will need to complete these three after the book on planes, they will also be the least challenging. You need to learn the basics of magic, medicine, healing, history, psychology and more if you are to make an apt pawn.”

Dog was also either oblivious or didn't care about the demeaning way her master spoke of her, merely enjoying the fact that she had so much knowledge at her hoof tips. “Is there going to be another test on those books?” she asked, tentatively.


Dog withered slightly but took it in stride, assuming at this point that pretty much everything would end in a test of some kind. “What's the last book about?”

Tirek plucked the aforementioned book from the wall and walked over to a table where he was joined quickly by a scampering Dog. “The last book you will read is this one and it is all about demons both great and small.” The centaur opened the book to the first page that proudly displayed the text Demons, the Damned and Tartarus: A Guide. By Scarlet Fury in bold black lettering, followed by a small collection of thanks, given to several individuals whose names sounded similar to the author’s.

“Demons, the Damned and Tartarus…” the filly whispered to herself as she read the title in a tone of hushed reverence. “Can I see?” She reached for the book, her tiny hooves barely able to cross the table.

“You may look at it, but you will have to wait until you have finished the three textbooks and the book on the planes before you can read this one, understood?” The filly nodded and tirek turned the book over to her before sitting back and observing where her curiosity took her.

The filly pulled the book in front of her and began flipping through the pages seemingly at random, skimming occasionally and stopping at any drawings or diagrams interspersed throughout the text. The filly grimaced at one particularly detailed drawing of a bisected three-legged demon, she quickly flipped past the picture, unaware of Tirek’s frown of annoyance.

She is much too squeamish and much too empathetic for her own good. He made a note of that but otherwise pushed aside the thought for later and resumed his observation of the filly’s curiosity.

Dog had just flipped back to the table of contents and was running a hoof down the list of chapter names. “Why do the chapters each have names like pride, envy, wrath, and stuff?” The filly looked up at the centaur in wonder.

“Because those along with sloth, greed, gluttony and lust are the most basic types of demons. Or at least that's how demons are categorized.” The centaur frowned. “The fools think that we are so easily categorized that they lump us together in some idiotically dogmatic way.”

“Why is that master?” Dog asked, looking up at the centaur with big, curious eyes.

“They are egotistical children that believe their sins somehow made this plane, as if the mere act of going against their own laws somehow spawned a whole plane of existence.” The centaur clenched his fists in annoyance but stopped himself before his rage got the better of him. “Unfortunately that method of categorization works for the most part.”

“Why do you say that?”

Tirek pointed to the bottom of the list where there was a small chapter titled ‘other anomalies’ with four sub categories. Shades, fear, despair demons and imps. “Tell me Dog, why don't those four fit with the above chapters?”

Dog paused and looked from the sub chapters to the top and back. Though she couldn't recall where or how she learned it Dog knew the top were sins, while the bottom did not fit in that category. “They aren't sins?”

The centaur merely nodded. “And yet there are just as many kinds of fear and despair demons as any of the so called ‘prime’ demon types. The fools let their arrogance color their knowledge and pollute it with with their baseless assumptions.”

“What kind of demon are you master?” Dog asked quietly, suddenly unsure of herself.

Instead of being offended by the sudden question the aged centaur merely smiled. “I would fall under the fear demon category. Though I am much more powerful than the glorified shades the book lists.”

“What… what kind of demon am I?”

“You are merely an imp.” Dog didn't know why but the way her father said that seemed like an insult. “But worry not, an imp is one of the most powerful demons in Tartarus.” The filly looked up at her father, confusion evident across her face.

“But the book said they are the weakest.”

“Power comes in many forms Dog, one of them is in adaptability. Though you may not read it in any book, imps have a special ability that no other demons have.” The centaur leaned in close and flipped to the page to drawing of small filly-sized bipedal imp next to a four legged version snarling at the reader, their blood red skin contrasting against their short black hair, horns and spade tail. “You and this little guy both share one thing in common. You can both become any one of these.”

With a flourish of his hand Tirek’s magic flared into life, a soft grey aura surrounding the book and flipping the pages until a large dual page-sized picture displaying the various heights of the ‘prime’ demons all standing next to one another coming into view.

To the left most was a tall, relatively thin demon with a large head crest that covered where its eyes would be. Its body was sleek and muscular, though not thin it was not overly muscled, striking a perfect balance between power and appearance. It wore long multicolored robes that accented its crest and body perfectly, turning the entire creature into a towering being that radiated power and form. Dog didn't even have to glance at the label to know it was a pride demon. Everything about it seemed to scream this, from its elegant yet powerful body to the clothes it wore, even the bone-like crest on its head seemed to scream pride.

Next was a strange four legged creature that although was much shorter than the pride demon, was also much, much wider. Its low body covered almost as much ground as the pride demon was tall. Its gangly limbs ended in sharp talons and thick green scales covered its body, clashing with the collection of bones, trinkets and scraps of fabric that was strapped across its body seemingly at random. Its head was vaguely draconian, a motley assortment of thick plated scales and large dagger filled mouth that contained a serpentine tongue. Along its back ran a line of spines that jutted out of its body and gleamed in the artist’s rendition, making them seem as sharp as its razor sharp teeth. Dog knew instinctively this green monster was an envy demon.

After that was an enormous red and purple skinned monster that easily eclipsed the pride demon in height and the envy demon in width. Two enormous sets of horns grew out the sides of its head that both pointed forward. Its hooved feet were set wide apart as if it were ready to launch itself at the reader at a moment’s notice. Its large upper arms hid a smaller second pair that poked out from under the larger set. The smaller set were clawed unlike the larger pair that had huge fingers that were both balled into fists. Its face was twisted into a snarl of rage that displayed sharp, serrated teeth.

Dog forced herself to look away from the intimidating picture. Though she had to admit that it was a very good drawing as it seemed to send an intense wave of rage after just looking into the thing’s glaring beady red eyes.

Gluttony was perhaps the strangest yet, where pride and wrath had humanoid - a word she picked up from her father - features and envy had lizard or dragon-like feature, gluttony was far more alien. The closest Dog imagined was of a bloated snake creature only a lot like how her father was a horse creature. That wasn't nice to think about Dog knew, but it was the closest approximation she could think of. Gluttony had a vaguely humanoid upper torso but lower half of a snake creature. Though the others were clearly male or in envy’s case at least a creature that didn't have clear sex characteristics, gluttony seemed like neither or both, Dog wasn't sure. It had large roll on its chest, one she thought of as breasts, but due to the other rolls of fat she wasn't even quite sure if that was indeed a sign of gender. Either way she quickly tore her eyes away from the creature after her mind moved on to the disgusting bulge straining against the inside of its skin as if trying to push out of the creature’s brown flesh.

Sloth was… strange. It was simply an oversized slug with a shell on its back, though it was definitely disgusting it also seemed the least intimidating. Strange liquid dripped off its body and though it had a pair of horns they seemed vestigial, too small to hurt anyone with. Its arms were small and slimy and blended into its body. Right as Dog was ready to write off the slug monster as the least intimidating demon so far something stopped her and drew her attention to its shell where she noticed that a multitude of faces distorted in agony was etched in. Dog stuck her tongue out in disgust and pulled back, glancing at the next demon in the lineup.

Greed was a lot like pride in a way, but the figure seemed almost more… cultured? Dog wasn't quite sure but the fact it wore clothes was already a stark difference from most of the others. Where pride’s clothes blended into its body and accentuated every facet of its physique, greed’s was gaudy and used gold almost exclusively. The color was everywhere, from its robes to its jewelry to its scaly skin and color of its eyes. It was almost the tallest, just behind wrath but it was far skinnier and far more serpentine. It stood on its hind legs, its thin hands clasped before it, a knowing smirk on its lips.

Again the artist’s ability to render the demon was astounding, Dog couldn't help but feel as though the demon was ready to leap out of the page and offer her something she couldn't resist. She shuddered and looked away, glancing over the last demon in the line up only to almost immediately look away. The purplish pink skin and exposed breasts and genitalia made Dog’s cheeks burn hot and her hooves shuffle nervously.

Noticing that his pawn had looked away from the drawing Tirek grinned, observing the mixture of curiosity and disgust raging behind those small magenta eyes. “So, what did you think?”

Dog remained quiet for several moments, almost straining her master’s patience before speaking. “Why aren't there any like me?” She asked quietly, shuffling her hooves nervously and looking away from her father.

“Oh but there are a few like you, those are just the most common. Here, I’ll show you.” Tirek grinned as he flipped the pages with a wave of his hand, his magic bringing the page he wanted all on its own.

The large double paged illustration was replaced by a small one and a sub chapter of pride entitled Superiority. The creature was four-legged like Dog, and hoofed like her as well however that was where the similarities ended. The demon before her was taller, much taller, almost as tall as her father. Its head was identical to her own save for the fact that a spiralling white horn grew from the center, it was large, almost as long as one of the creature’s legs and was polished to a brilliant shine.

Dog turned up her lip in disgust, something about the creature disgusted her on a primal level. The smug sense of self-confidence rolled off the demon in waves and Dog couldn't help but feel repulsed by the sensation.

Noticing her disgust Tirek waved his hand only to stop. “Actually… I think I know exactly what demon might catch your eye.”

Dog turned a quizzical eye to her father but remained silent, noticing that the aura surrounding the book had grown and the pages fluttered rapidly until it flipped past the section on lust demons and kept going. The instant the pages stopped Dog gasped, her breath stolen by the prettiest individual she had ever seen in her short life. A beautiful mare draped in fine silks that revealed long shapely legs and wide, generous hips, her eyes looked into Dog’s, promising untold pleasure if only she submitted. Though she knew the mare was a picture she couldn't help but blush at the look she was being given.

Despite her shame Dog couldn't help but continue staring at the beautiful creature, committing her appearance to memory. Dog’s eyes traced down the demon’s body once more and though she could see the demon had a large pair of breasts between her back legs, they were thankfully hidden by the creature's legs and silks, though only slightly, as if teasing the viewer. Other than that she wore nothing save for an enormous book that was bound around her neck by a sturdy black chain. Two long black horns grew from either side of her head and Dog couldn't help but imagine a ram’s horns when she saw them, though the demon’s were slightly larger and more pointed. Squinting slightly Dog also noticed that the demon’s horns had a thin spiraling line of glowing purple that snaked around the horns and drew the eye from base to tip.

“Oh wow, she's so pretty.” Dog reached up and placed a tiny hoof on the picture, ensuring her father couldn't change the page.

Tirek however had long since taken a back seat and instead of flipping the page, gently pushed the book closer to the wide-eyed filly. “Do you like her?”

Dog nodded, not looking away from the page as she read the title of the sub chapter aloud. “The keeper of secrets, is she a kind of… lust demon?” Dog grimaced, not quite sure why she was taken so aback by the assumption she had made.

“Yes, sort of. The author who wrote this may be arrogant in assuming their are only seven true types of demons but the classification is somewhat effective when you realize that cousins of the lust demon share some similarities.” Dog sighed morosely. “The keepers do not share their cousins need for the essence of mortals. You see Dog, Lust demons, or succubi and incubi steal the essence from other creatures, some in a more literal sense and other in a more… carnal sense.”

Dog wasn't sure what that word meant but she felt dirty having merely heard it. “Ew, I’m not sure I like her as much now.”

“That is where the comparison ends however as the keeper desires only one thing…” Tirek leaned down and pointed at the title of the sub chapter. “... and it's right in their name. Do you know what it is?”

Dog’s eyes lit up and the feeling of disgust fled from her mind. “Secrets? Or perhaps knowledge?”

“Both are correct. They have a soft spot for secrets as their name implies but they also desire knowledge in almost any form. They are formidable foes and quite adept at the art of magic. Are you sure you are going to pick her?”

Dog’s nose scrunched up. “Pick? What do you mean?”

“I have decided that the fully fledged demon you must kill will be a keeper of secrets. After it’s dead you will take its power for your own so that you may progress to the next trial.” Dog frowned and gently ran a hoof over the demon she suddenly felt guilty for. Tirek noticed his pawn’s sudden shift and frowned in disgust. I thought her empathy would be entirely gone after her little accident burned away most of her mind. “What is wrong Dog?”

“I don't want to kill her,” she whispered.

Tirek groaned and ran a hand down his face. “You aren't actually going to kill that keeper. There are hundreds of them.”

“I know but… I still don't want to kill her.” Dog ran a hoof down the page, a soft blush running across her face. “She's pretty.”

Tirek let out a sigh but decided to put the problem aside for the day, he would work on getting rid of that annoying last vestige of empathy soon enough but that would take time. Which, he now had in spades.

“We will talk about this more later. For now go back to your room and take the first textbook with you. I expect it to be completed by the end of the week and the rest by the end of the month.”

“Month? What's that?” Tirek gently rubbed his temples at his student’s continued questions.

“I might have to bring out more latent memory unless I plan on putting her through grade school.” He mumbled to himself before looking down at a now quite confused little filly. “Nothing, a month has thirty days, it's the second today so you have 28 days to finish.” The filly nodded. “Good, now off you go.”

The bandaged filly trotted over to the bookshelf and grabbed the indicated book, tucking it under one leg. Just as she was about to reach for the door she stopped, drawing the centaur’s ire. “What is it now?”

Dog looked down, unsure of what to do or say. “I was wondering if I could read a little more about the keeper and the other demons.”

The down-turned face coupled with those big watery eyes swayed something in the old centaur and he suddenly found himself speaking words he would not have said a moment ago. “Okay, but only for tonight. After that you have to save studying that book until you have finished the rest.”

Before Tirek had a chance to regret his sudden decision Dog had ran up and wrapped all four legs around one of his own and was rubbing her face into his leg. “Thank you father!”

While Tirek was mired in confusion and rage the filly scooped up both books and scampered out of the room.

Once the filly was gone the dam broke and Tirek stomped in frustration. “What in the hell is going on?” he bellowed at no one.

The centaur took a deep breath and began pacing, pushing away the strangeness that had just occurred and moving on to potential fixes to his dog’s empathy issue, his mind already running through potential solutions. Mind magic was out, it could suppress memories and bring them out but suppressing feelings and emotions only made them bubble out of control. Other types of emotion manipulation could work but in the end he didn't want to just make her unable to feel empathy. He wanted the filly to kill her sense of empathy.

He would need something brutal, something that would break the filly out of her habit of empathizing with the weak. With a clap of his hands he was back into his divination room, a cramped room with a large black orb sitting on a small pedestal of bones. The orb was roughly the size of the centaur’s head and was made up of what was for what was basically an imp’s gallstone. The consumed magical residue got backed up by an accidentally ingested holy spell, stopping the imp from digesting the rest of the magic and ultimately killing it but not before producing the single most sought after divination item in all the planes.

Sometimes Tirek almost missed the old days when he didn't have the best equipment, the most experience and a wealth of knowledge and assets at his beck and call, though it did make things simpler and quicker the challenge was lacking.

Shrugging the odd thought away the centaur placed his hands over the orb and focused his power into the center, imagining a tall purple and green pride demon that was a little different and stood slightly taller than his cousins, he was also slightly thinner and had a penchant for gossip and chocolate. The last factoid ensured Tirek had free access to any and all seemingly useless trivia the demon came into contact with. Like the location of something small and fleshy that may have fallen into Tartarus. Something that would hopefully make for a good sacrificial lamb that could be used to help break his pawn’s bad habit of caring.

The darkness within the orb parted, revealing the aforementioned pride demon with a particularly nasty whip dagger in hand. He stood posed above the partly flayed body of a screaming creature of some kind. Noting the almost bored expression on the demon’s face, Tirek smirked and discarded the usual protective charms that hid him from prying eyes.

Instantly the demon’s eyes lit up and his arm went slack mid-strike. “Ahh if it isn't my favorite former Equestrian. How did you know I was bored out of my skull?”

The oddly lumpy, three-armed creature twitched and let out a low moan of pain, drawing a snarl to the demon's face and a swift kick to the creature’s midsection. “Quiet worm, important people are talking.”

Tirek merely smirked at the display. “Not getting anything out of this one?”

The demon’s smile faltered. “Either that or he truly has nothing worthwhile for me and needs to go back to the pit.”

The creature stirred somewhat and coughed, crawling weakly toward the door. “Get in here and toss this worm back in with the rest.”

Instantly the door opened and a small dark purple imp scampered in and quickly dragged the crying and bleeding creature away, its head never raising from its obediently lowered state.

With the creature gone the pride demon straightened its blood splattered robes with disdain and turned its attention back to the floating black orb that had intruded on his day. “Now what were we talking about?”

“I was hoping you had news of a strange and much desired commodity that may be found or acquired.”

“Oh my, this is much more interesting a conversation than what I was having a moment ago, much more room for profit too.” The demon snapped his fingers and a larger heavy-set imp scampered in and crouched down into a vaguely chair shape which the demon promptly sat on. “Do go on.”

Tirek snickered at the casual display of power that pride demons were so known for. “I need something innocent or at least innocent-looking.”

The demon laughed haughtily, one hand in front of its small mouth. “That is quite the thing to ask for in Tartarus, this may take time and may require quite the reward.”

Though internally Tirek was brimming with disgust at the fact that necessity had brought him back to dealing with this one, he had long since learned to hold back any display of emotion when dealing with other demons and forced his face to remain neutral. “Of course, I wouldn't dream of coming to you empty-handed. I have come across a rather rare supply of three hundred year old yak chocolate that had been stored in glacial ice. One of a kind and supposedly the best ever made. Think of it as a signing bonus for taking on this task on my behalf.”

The demon’s eyes lit up and a thin deep purple tongue ran across where the demon’s lips should be. “Color me intrigued.” The demon stood up suddenly and kicked his imp chair hard in the side. “Get out and seal the door behind you.”

The imp wheezed once before scampering off towards the door, closing and sealing it behind it. “I think I have just the thing in mind, it shouldn't take long to procure though it may require greasing a rather unseemly palm.” The pride demon’s mouth distorted into one of disgust but that quickly vanished. “But consider it done Lord Tirek. When next we speak I will add a dash of rainbow to your day.”

The pride demon dipped low, into a wide sweeping bow that made his numerous robes billow in a display of wealth, his numerous rings and trinkets attached to his clothes glinting in the soft torchlight.

Tirek snarled and dismissed his divination spell, making the orb return to its normal flat black coloration. He had to admit that pride demons were at least consistent, making a necessity of finding a few good pawns in the usually useless and haughty bunch. That didn't mean he enjoyed their overly flowery speech or constant double dealing however.

Discarding the thought he waved his hand back over the orb, the small bandaged form of his newest and most intriguing pawn appearing through the mists. She sat quietly on the ground, a book splayed out in her black bandaged legs, reading the tome intently, ignorant to everything around her.

The centaur caressed the crystal ball with a wicked sneer. After he got rid of her misguided sense of empathy and perhaps if things went as he planned, his pawn might even get her own pawn. The best minions had their own minions after all and slaves always made everyone’s lives easier.

Dog’s ears suddenly flicked and her hoof stopped mid-page, marking where she had left off. “Is someone there?”

Tirek cocked an eye at the sudden outburst, checking over his own spells to ensure he was still invisible. His senses extended over the orb and just after he was sure that everything was perfect she spoke again.

“Master is that you?”

“What the?” Tirek waved a hand over the orb and dispelled his spying spell, making the small cell and the tiny filly vanish from sight.

After taking a moment to calm himself he smiled suddenly, his smile quickly grew and grew until his face could no longer contain his mirth and it spilled out of his mouth in a diabolical laugh.

For nearly a minute he roared in laughter, pounding the table with his fist. This was beyond perfect, she had power far beyond her control. Power enough to accidentally see through a spell even a greater pride demon could not. She was the perfect pawn and perhaps eventually even more.

Tirek had to stop himself from planning too far ahead, such nebulous plans did nothing to help him here and now and besides, he had a new mystery to solve, one that had been bothering him since he spoke to his accomplice.

The pride demon’s words had left a mark on the centaur, though the strange riddle-y method of speaking was par for the course for this particular demon it was stilted, off, as if he inserted words that shouldn't be there. But why?

Dash and Rainbow were the two words that really stuck out but what did they mean? Flipping the words around didn't help, what would Rainbow Dash even mean? Unless they meant...

The aged centaur stopped stroking his chin and mumbled to himself. “No, it couldn't be. The word structure sounded similar to a pony name which would mean... there is another Equestrian down here?”

Author's Note:

First law chapter three will be out shortly I just really enjoyed writing this one.

Editing done by the wonderful everfree pony!
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